Letters To Osama And Bush Draw Reprimand

Osama bin Laden and President Bush over film strip and letters
A candidate for sheriff who made a sexually suggestive film of himself was reprimanded for sending 60 letters to Osama bin Laden and President Bush.

Rick Magnuson said the letters, sent to fictitious addresses and filled with newspaper stories about terrorism in 2002, were part of an art project.

Magnuson, a civilian community safety officer in the police department who is challenging Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis in the Nov. 7 election, earlier drew attention for a 12-minute video which appears to show him masturbating outside. He said that clip, which was played on a local cable television station, was a form of performance art.

The video, titled "The Hole," can be found on YouTube.

According to police records, members of the Counter Terrorism Unit of Union County, N.J. complained in December 2002 that it spent a lot of time and money investigating a letter addressed to bin Laden that they had received.

"It was about how the government distracts with fear," Magnuson said. "Art should question our culture."

Magnuson was also reprimanded for another art project — repeatedly driving a rented truck through a roundabout (traffic circle) in Vail and refusing a police officer's request to stop. According to police records provided by Magnuson, Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson received the complaint from the Vail police chief on Oct. 2, 2002.

"It's not against the law. That was overbearing government. I didn't do anything wrong," Magnuson said.

Police records also show Magnuson was placed on six months probation from the police department in 2003 for checking his girlfriend's police record and letting her know there was a warrant for her arrest. He was suspended without pay for one day.

Ryerson said Magnuson shouldn't have given his girlfriend the records but he said he wasn't trying to help her flee the law. She was arrested five days later and the copy of the police records was found in her apartment.

"I don't think for a minute he was trying to thwart justice," Ryerson said.

At the time of the video controversy, Magnuson said he had never been placed on probation.

"I guess I'm changing (that answer) to yes," Magnuson said.

Braudis said he had no comment on the disciplinary actions against Magnuson.